We're just going to say it. People who ride make better drivers. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general we notice more, are more courteous and practice more defensive driving. And for some reason, Harley® riders seem to be in the upper echelon when it comes to learning from their bike riding experience. Maybe it's because we put such a high value on our bikes. Perhaps its because reliable performance and superior handling allows us to ride with more confidence and precision. Maybe it's both. But here's how riding makes us better drivers.
WE DON'T ZONE OUT
The first time you get on a bike, you suddenly realize things you didn't before. It's like a moment of revelation about your frailty and humanity. Your skin is paper thin and tears easily. Your elbows and knees seem incredibly pointy and prone to whacking on every available surface. You realize what could happen to your skull and brain if you hit the pavement even at low speed. All that before flashes through your mind before the first time you let out the clutch.
A motorcycle training course or your first few riding lessons don't take long, but you make mistakes. You learn how quickly unexpected things can happen. It changes you for life.
Whether you become a lifelong motorcycle rider or you just ride for a season, you're never the same. Just one day on a bike makes you more aware of the world around you. You don't ever "check out" like when you're driving. You know if you do, it could mean your life.
Motorcycle riders become confident in their abilities as skill improves. But the wise ones never feel untouchable. We know what we're doing is more dangerous than riding in a car. That's a risk we accept because we're also willing to take responsibility for our own safety. And frankly, we trust our ability to ride a motorcycle well more than we trust other drivers to pay attention to what they're doing.
WE LOOK AT THE WEATHER
Before we set out, we know what we're facing. We ride with gear to help us stay safe and comfortable. We seldom just hop in the car and hope for the best, instead we know how to ride safely on wet Dallas roads.
WE ASSUME YOU DON'T SEE US
Student driver courses preach defensive driving, but nothing brings it home faster than a few minute on a motorcycle. No one has to tell you you're smaller than the other traffic. You feel it. So you make adjustments.
It goes hand in hand with not zoning out. Riders are always looking for potential risks and escape routes. We know exactly what we can expect from our bike if we need to make a sudden stop or reach peak acceleration.
Car drivers sometimes merge, change lanes or turn like they're the only vehicle on the planet. They either never see you, or if they do they get that shocked look. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry I didn't see you there," they seems to say, as if that makes it okay to drive with your head up your backside. Motorcycle riders don't do that. They never assume vehicle drivers will notice what they're doing and make adjustments. The ones who do, unfortunately, don't ride very long.
That makes us better drivers across the board, because we give others space. We don't ride too close hoping to push other drivers along. We're acutely aware of our lane position, so we don't crowd other drivers or drift into their space.
WE STAY OFF THE *&%$ CELL PHONE
In a lifetime of riding, I've seen maybe one guy on his phone riding a motorcycle. I fear for his future. In contrast, you can usually count at least half a dozen Dallas drivers texting, taking selfies, watching videos and everything else when you ride from point A to point B.
The difference isn't just that you don't need both hands the whole time you're driving a car. Plenty of us have cruise control, we could text and ride if we really wanted to. But if you bump the vehicle in front of you in a car, you have steel reinforcement and airbags. On a bike, we have leather and a helmet. We can wait to check messages the five minutes it takes to get to the coffee shop. Plus, part of the reason we ride is to get away.
Usually, that behavior carries over into regular driving. We realize the folly of it on a bike, so we don't do it in our car or truck either.
WE DON'T MAKE SUDDEN MOVES
Okay, you've seen that guy in Dallas traffic that realizes his exit is on the other side, so he darts across four lanes of heavy traffic. Somehow he usually survives, it's mystifying. Motorcycle riders don't do that.
Watch a biker next time you're behind them in traffic. They're constantly scanning the lanes ahead and checking their mirrors to know what's on every side. They never make sudden changes without knowing what's in their blind spots.
WE LET PEOPLE BY
If you've ever been on a road with no room to pass and a long way to go, you've probably gotten stuck behind the guy who isn't in any hurry. Motorcycle riders generally pull over and let you by if you want to go faster than they are.
The reason is twofold. First, we don't like you riding our tails. Second, we want to relax, enjoy the experience and ride safely.
We recognize you might have a pressing need to get where you're going and that's fine. Each person's experience is personal, it's not a competition.
That mindset spills over into our other driving habits. We don't feel like we should have to adjust our speed to the fastest person on the road, it's better to be courteous. We expect other drivers to do the same. And if we want to go faster than you, for us that's not generally a problem.
DON'T HAVE A HARLEY®?
When you're ready to experience a thrill like no other, come test ride a Harley®. If you don't have your license, we'll put you on the JumpStart. If you do, pick out your dream bike and set up a test ride today.